Egypt army announces major anti-militant operation

Violet Powell
February 10, 2018

The Egyptian armed forces announced on Friday launching a massive nationwide counterterrorism operation named "Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018".

Egypt has been waging a military campaign against jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip, since the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The military operation is meant to cover large parts of the Sinai peninsula, as well as parts of the Delta and the Western Desert, the military spokesman said.

Abdel-Aal said that he is closely following the Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018, which aims to thwart all terrorist plots threatening the security of Egypt, the statement added.

Warplanes will bomb areas where jihadists are hiding while troops, tanks and armored vehicles will be deployed on the ground, security sources said.

Hasm militant group claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist attacks that killed several policemen since it emerged late 2016 and the group is seen by the police as the armed wing of the now outlawed Brotherhood group.

Egypt has been under a state of emergency since April a year ago, after two suicide bombings at churches claimed by IS killed at least 45 people in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria.

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In a later update, he said the air force had targeted a number of homes and hideouts in the north and west of the Sinai.

"Units from the naval forces are also tightening the security on the sea front, with the aim of cutting all supply lines to terrorist elements".

The Sinai Peninsula had always been demilitarised under the terms of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, but as the violence intensified the government responded by ramping up its military presence, with the tacit approval of Israel.

Also on Friday, the interior ministry announced a parallel operation against Hasm, a group which authorities have branded "the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood".

Most of the violence has been in North Sinai province, but there have also been attacks on the military, police and even churches elsewhere, including in Cairo.

Most of the terror attacks were carried out by the so-called Wilayat Sinai (Sinai state or province), a Sinai-based group affiliated with the Islamic State (IS), a regional terrorist group.

The former army chief is seeking re-election next month and success in Sinai will boost his popularity.

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